Location: Palomar Moutain (77 Miles / 1 Hour and 45 Minutes Northeast of Downtown San Diego)
Open Daily: Dawn till Dusk
Cost: $6 per Vehicle; $15+ for Camp Sites
Features: Pine Tree Forest with Hiking Trails, Trout Fishing, and Camping.
Palomar Mountain State Park Highlights: For a change of pace, Southern Californians visit Palomar Mountain State Park and the surrounding Palomar District of the Cleveland National Forest. This area is filled with tall pine trees and open meadows, reminiscent of what many have experienced in mountains found in other parts of the country, but rarely found in Southern California. Palomar Mountain receives four times as much rain as the San Diego coast, which can be seen from the mountain on a clear day. It also receives snow during the winter attracting beach bound Californians for a brief winter escape.
Spreading over 1,800 acres, the State Park provides hiking, fishing, and camping. Those looking to go horseback riding and biking will need to visit the adjacent Cleveland National Forest to enjoy those activities. Off-roading is not allowed on Palomar Mountain.
If you want to camp out at night, be sure to enjoy the spectacular views of the night sky. The National Forest and Palomar Observatory offer organized stargazing activities nearby that may be of interest to you.
Palomar Mountain State Park Brochure – Here is a printable version of the brochure you will receive when you enter the park. It provides a map of the local hiking trails, Doane fishing pond, and picnic sites. For a brief overview on hiking trails visit the PalomarSummit.com web site. To get extensive details of hiking trails in Palomar Mountain State Park, the surrounding Cleveland National Forest, or anywhere else in San Diego County, invest in Afoot & Afield in San Diego County by Jerry Schad. This comprehensive guide to hiking in San Diego provides maps, trail distances, hiking times, level of difficulty, and advice on when to go and where to look. It is an excellent book well worth the small price.
Note, although it is very rare to see a mountain lion, stay alert to your surroundings. If you happen to encounter a mountain lion, make a lot of noise, stand tall, and throw your hands in the air above your head to scare it off. Read the State Park Mountain Lion brochure for more information. Also, bring along a cell phone. You will find there is good coverage in most, but not all, of the Park.
Reserve Camp Sites at Palomar Mountain State Park – The state park service outsources reservations to Reserve America. Reservations are taken for the Spring through Fall months. Otherwise, it is first-come, first-served. There are fewer than 3 dozen camp sites for RVs and Tents. Rates run about $15 – $20 per night.
Lodging – For those who need more amenities, there are very few options. Check out the lodging page on the PalomarSummit.com web site for details.
Food – Consider bringing a picnic to enjoy while visiting Palomar Mountain. You will come across a general store on Palomar Mountain where you can buy food and unique gifts. Hot food and sandwiches are generally sold from lunch time until the late afternoon. The General Store is at the intersection of S-6 and S-7 just a few miles before you reach the State Park. (See Directions below.)
Fees / State Park Web Page: (Costs are Approximate)
Parking is $6.
Tent and RV Sites run about $15 – $20 for a night.
Big Thanks to the Friends of Palomar who persuaded the State of California they could keep this beautiful park open year-round despite big state budget cuts. They rely on our donations so please consider donating today!
Directions from Google Maps to the Entrance of Palomar Mountain State Park (92060). (S-7 will also be shown as State Park Road and Boucher Lookout Road.)
Warning – If Google Maps suggests taking a Truck Trail, do not use it. Drag the blue line on the map from the Truck Trail portion to the intersection of SR-76 and Valley Center Road. This new route will lead you to the intersection of S-6 and S-7. Here you will find the Palomar Mountain General Store where you can take a break and get some food. To reach the State Park from here, you will head west on S-7 about 3 miles. (The side of the General Store will be on your right side as you head west on S-7.)
The Palomar Mountain General Store also provides a nice map of the attractions on Palomar Mountain. Be sure to enjoy the spectacular views on the drive up.
Traffic – You should not run into any traffic issues heading out of the urban San Diego areas except on the I-15 northbound during evening rush hour. (Visit our page on traffic in San Diego to learn more.) Prepare to drive slowly on the curvy road as you work your way up to an elevation over 5,000 feet. Watch out for motorcyclists that enjoy speeding up the mountain on both the S-6 and S-7, especially on weekends. Be sure to fill up with a full tank of gas before you get to Palomar Mountain.
If you hear there is snow in the San Diego Mountains (this only happens a couple times during the winter), you may be required to use snow chains on your tires. Check the current San Diego Mountains Weather Forecast. Also note, the State of California places restrictions on RVs over 40′ in length.
Transit - Sorry, but you will not find public transportation to this remote location.